Stars support WaterAid campaign to highlight the 200 million hours women and girls lose walking for water daily

on
22 February 2024
Amanda Mealing (R) walks with Midwife Faustina Sedjoah in Ghana
Image: WaterAid/ Eliza Powell

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Former Paralympian Ellie Simmonds, actors Amanda Mealing, Dougray Scott and Ariyon Bakare, and presenter Tyler West are leading WaterAid’s thought-provoking Extra Time campaign to highlight the time millions of women and girls lose to water collection and the powerful difference clean water can make. 

Almost one in ten people around the world do not have clean water close to home, with women and girls shouldering the burden of water collection, often walking up to three hours or more every day. Globally, a staggering 200 million hours are lost by women and girls collecting water every day – time that could be spent in education or earning a living.

This reality is being worsened by the climate crisis, with extreme floods polluting water sources and longer droughts drying up springs and wells.

The campaign, which forms part of the charity’s Water Means Life appeal, sees the five stars spotlight how precious three hours are by sharing what they would do if they were gifted that extra time in the day – from revisiting their love for horse riding to learning how to cook. 

According to new research by WaterAid*, working adults in the UK feel time-poor with nearly half (48%) saying there isn’t enough time to get everything done at home and a third (31%) saying there isn’t enough time to get their work done. One in five (20%) say they do not have a good work/life balance, and an overwhelming four in five people (84%) say having three extra hours a day would make a difference to their lives.

Former British Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds said she would spend any extra time revisiting her love of horse riding:

“When I was younger, I had a choice to either pursue swimming competitively or go into dressage and horse jumping. I didn’t have time to do both, so I went with swimming. If I had more time, I’d get back to riding a horse again. I love being around animals and I have a lot of fond memories of riding – a feeling I still miss today.  

“It isn’t right that women and girls around the world can spend three hours or even more collecting water every single day, which is often dirty. Water is a basic human right and I saw how it can change lives during my trip to Uganda with WaterAid. Having clean water close to home gives women the freedom to a life where they can work and study. It should be available to everyone 24/7.” 

Over a third (37%) of British workers would do a hobby if they had more time, while one in five (18%) would spend any extra time learning a new skill.

Amanda Mealing, best known for her role as Casualty’s Connie Beauchamp, said she would learn how to cook if she had the time:

“When I spent time with some of the women in my father’s homeland of Ghana during a trip with WaterAid, I witnessed how collecting water is holding women and girls back. I met Faustina, a midwife who was close to tears as she explained the frustrations she feels as a medical professional who cannot provide the quality of care she strives for because she has to waste time collecting water. I also saw the difference clean water can make.

“If I had three extra hours, I’d use them to learn how to cook from one of our most eloquent and impassioned chefs – my good friend Andi Oliver. I am blessed to have spent years sharing an apartment with her, hence my failure to be able to boil an egg. Andi somehow always managed to cook fresh and cook enough for any hungry visitors. I'd love to learn about mixing spices, flavours and, most essentially, cooking with love.”

Kiss DJ and Strictly Come Dancing sensation Tyler West said he would spend more time with his loved ones, like half (50%) of UK workers surveyed:

“If I had more hours in the day, I’d spend quality time with my family and friends making memories I can treasure. I lost someone close to me at Christmas and it highlighted how precious time is, but millions of people are losing thousands of hours every year walking for water.

“In Zambia, I met Brenda, who spends up to six hours a day collecting water from a hand dug well in a dry riverbed. Imagine what she could achieve if she didn’t waste so much time collecting water! In a nearby community where WaterAid helped install clean water facilities, Matildah told me that the water pump has changed her life. She is healthier, her home and clothes are cleaner, and she can spend more time with family and looking after her livestock. Water really does mean life.”

Crime and Mission Impossible II star Dougray Scott said he would use any extra time to read, like two in five (39%) surveyed:

“I saw first-hand how vital clean water is when I visited Mozambique with WaterAid where I met Gracinda, a single mother of five. She would walk for half an hour to collect water from a hole dug in the ground that was so dirty, it would make her children sick with diarrhoea. Clean water changes everything; it helps keep people healthy and empowers women and girls to write the next chapter of their lives.  

“If I was gifted three extra hours, I would read for pleasure. I spend so much time reading material for work, that I rarely get to read for my own enjoyment. Authors that come to mind would be some Scottish greats such as James Kelman or Alasdair Gray, or perhaps I’d finally read the Bob Dylan autobiography.”

His Dark Materials and Doctors star Ariyon Bakare would also improve his cooking skills:

“I’ve recently lost one of my closest friends to cancer, which has been incredibly difficult to come to terms with. When he first got sick, I was looking for ways to help him and discovered how food can be a source of healing. If I had more hours in the day, I’d pour my soul into researching the health benefits of the food, herbs and spices. I’d create dishes that hit the holy triad of flavour, immune-boosting goodness and ingredients that have the power to lift spirits, and I’d spill the beans in a cool food blog.

“Thinking what you could achieve with a bit more time makes you realise how much women and girls may be missing out on by spending hours collecting water. With clean water close to home, people have the time to go to school earn a living and pursue their dreams.”

The #ExtraTime trend has also seen influencers Shauni Kibby (@itzshauni)India Black (@ind.i.bb) and Hannah and Charlie (@thattravelcouple) show their support online, following the launch by DJ AJ Wavy (@ajwavy) on TikTok with a special original audio created for the trend.

By supporting WaterAid’s Water Means Life appeal, the public can help get clean water to communities and change the lives of women and girls in Bangladesh and around the world, so they have more time to learn, earn and thrive. With weather-proof taps and toilets, communities can build a better future. Donate at https://www.wateraid.org/uk/time.

ENDS

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For more information, please contact:

Safeeyah Kazi, Senior Media Officer, [email protected]. Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)20 7793 4537, or email [email protected].

Notes to Editors:

*WaterAid Survey

This online survey of 2000 UK workers (full-time, part-time and self-employed) was commissioned by WaterAid and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society's code of conduct. Data was collected between 18/01/2024 and 23/01/2024. All participants are double-opted in to take part in research and are paid an amount depending on the length and complexity of the survey. This survey was overseen and edited by the OnePoll research team. OnePoll are MRS Company Partners, corporate membership of ESOMAR and Members of the British Polling Council.

WaterAid is an international not-for-profit determined to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. We work alongside communities in 22 countries to secure these three essentials that transform people’s lives. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 28 million people with clean water and nearly 29 million people with decent toilets.

For more information, visit our website wateraid.org/uk, follow us on Twitter @WaterAidUK@WaterAid or @WaterAidPress, or find us on FacebookLinkedIn or Instagram.

  • 703 million people in the world – almost one in ten – don’t have clean water close to home.
  • 2.2 billion people in the world – more than one in four – don’t have safe water.
  • 1.5 billion people in the world – almost one in five – don’t have a decent toilet of their own.
  • Almost 400,000 children under five die every year due to diseases caused by unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. That's more than 1000 children a day, or almost one child every one and a half minutes.
  • Investing in safely managed water, sanitation and hygiene services provides up to 21 times more value than it costs.